Saturday, June 16, 2001

Lawmakers told of area's boom

Study results seen as boost to regional development plans

By Amanda York
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        On the same day state legislators heard a pitch for an arena at Northern Kentucky University and the Newport Aquarium announced robust attendance figures, visiting legislators also heard about the area's growth.

        Northern Kentucky's gross regional product grew almost 90 percent in nine years and its population growth rate was close to double the state's rate — statistics that regional leaders say are justification to fund the arena and two other major capital projects presented Friday.

        The economic and population growth, measured by a Chamber of Commerce study, are expected to assist the regional arena, the West Covington development and the Big Bone Lick State Park expansion leaders want the Kentucky Legislature to fund.

        Tom Zinn, staff economist for the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, did a study for years 1990-99 and found Northern Kentucky was experiencing “phenomenal growth.”

        "It is our greatest growth in our economic history,” said Mr. Zinn, who is also a professor of economics at the University of Cincinnati.

        He also cited Thursday's tentative agreement to end the strike by pilots at Hebron-based regional airline Comair as an important event for the area's economy. Recently, Mr. Zinn said the area's growth had been moderated, but Comair's settlement, he said, would be a definite plus.

        The study looked at the performance of Northern Kentucky's economy relative to the U.S. and Kentucky economy. Between 1990 and 1999, Northern Kentucky experienced an 89 percent growth in gross regional product. During that time, the commonwealth's population increased 7.3 percent and Northern Kentucky's population went up 11.8 percent.

        The area saw an increase in population, he said, because of an employment boom or net domestic migration, people moving into an area for employment.

        This type of migration is one of the reasons Covington city officials want to move forward with the Riverfront West project. According to a study done by Economics Research Group, the total economic impact of the Riverfront West development project on the Kentucky economy would be more than $813 million for the first year, with an impact of more than $400 million for each subsequent year of operation.

        Of this, $399 million is a one-time construction impact resulting from the the building of the project, and the remaining $414 million will recur for each year of operation. The report says that nearly 15,000 jobs will be generated in the state because of the economic activity.

        The economic numbers for the events center at NKU look promising, too. In a feasibility study done by Omni Architects in association with Brailsford & Dunlavey and Ellerbe Becket Inc., it was shown that the arena would fill a special "niche' in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area.

        The study estimated that the arena would host about 114 events per year.


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